Asmara- The Capital of Eritrea

Arriving im Asmara was like stepping out of a time machine. Driving from the airport to the city center we passed art deco buildings like the Fiat Tagliero, horse and donkey carriages and small”mr bean” like fiat cars. Along the street there were coffee bars where people were sipping 50cent machiatos and reading the newspapers. Tailor shops were everywhere. The Italians sure managed to have an influence on the people here before they left the country more than 60 years ago.

In order to leave the capital you need permits that you can get in one day at the tourist office. I got mine within two hours and headed straight to the tank graveyard that is located between the city and the airport. Hundreds of tanks, buses and even planes were stacked up in this huge area and they had been there for so long that cactuses have started to grow on them and people have started to live there.

Other sights that I had a look at in the capital was the St Mariams Church next to the train station, the Mai Jah Jah Water Fountain and the Cinema Roma, which had a really old, but beautiful café inside it.

It was a really exciting time to be in Asmara as they had just lifted UN sanctions two days before and the borders with Ethiopia was opening up. People were getting beer from Ethiopia costing half of the local beer, they were watching music videos from Ethiopia which was not allowed before and foreigners were finally allowed to travel with public transport. I hope to be back here in a year or two to see the transformation that the country will have gone through but am happy to have seen it before too much has changed here.

Massawa

Massawa is a city on the cost of Eritrea, about 120 kilometer North West of the capital Asmara. Buses leave all day when full, cost 31Nakfa/1,6USD and takes about five hours driving along some of the most beautiful serpentine roads I’ve seen. Alongside the road, for the most part, was a rail road built by the Italians that would could possibly classify as the Worlds most beautiful rail journey, but the problem is that there are no scheduled trains, so you would have to pay over thousand dollars to charter your own train.

Massawa is also the gateway to the Dahlak Archipelago, and I was invited to go there with some Ethiopians who had chartered a boat, but as I hadnt arranged my government permit in advance I couldnt go.

Instead I spent the days walking around the old Massawa port where there were run down buildings built by the ottomans and the French. The last day I also rented a bike and cycled to Gurgusum. The beach there was not beautiful at all, and except for a couple of souvenier sellers on camels there was nothing going on. Im very glad I went with the bike though. For about ten kilometers the roads went through some huge salt pans and the only traffic I met was people crossing it with camels. A lonely tank was also left there in the middle of the road, which was fun to explore.

Four Days at Grand Comore

The Comores is a county on the African East Coast that a lot of people dont know about. Its neighbors Seychelles, Madagascar and Mauritius receives a lot more tourists every year, but exactly that is the reason why you should chose Comores over these places!

On the flight here I had met Fiona, an Australian traveler who accepted my offer of renting a car and drive around the island together. We got a beat up Renault car for 40 euro, which marched the state of the roads here. Moroni is full of potholes, pedestrians and horribly wrong parked cars, but once we got out of the capital it was no traffic and more comfortable driving around.

We started at 10am and had our first stop at the beach in Misamiouly, which is the prettiest beach I have ever seen in Africa, with not a single person in sight. From there it was just a short drive to the more famous Trou de Prophete, which was a bay where you could relax and do water sports. The water was just as turqouise as the previous beach, but the beach was by far not as pretty and we decided to just keep driving after a one minute photo stop there.

On the Northern tip of the Island there was a volcanic crater called Lac Sale where you could walk around the crater rim to see the water change colors from blue, to green and to a more clear color. A local showed us how the lake was “magical” by throwing rocks at it and watch the wind catch them so that they didnt hit the water.

Le Trou de Prophete Bay in the North

From the North point and on the way back through the East Coast there was not much places of interest to visit. The landscape changed quite a bit though with a hilly South and a more dry landscape which reminded me of the out back in Australia. We passed villages, where some of them were decorated by what looked a bit like Christmas lights, but was in fact plastic bags hanging from thread over the streets.

Back at the capital I had another couple of days to explore and went to the Islands mains sight, the Grand Mosque du Vendredi, to the museum of Comores and tried to hike up Mount Karthala which I soon realized was not possible in this heat.

Four days in the Grand Comore felt a bit much as we already got to see almost everything from the one day with rental car, but if I was not on a tight budget I would have taken the 70 dollar per way ferry to Moheli which is supposed to be an even calmer and cleaner version of Grand Comore.

I was also so lucky to get a free VIP ticket to the game of the National Comotian team, who beat Malawi 2-0. The athmosphere at the game and in the streets afterwards was crazy.

My last sunset from Iconi beach.

Ras Al Khaimah

Many people only visit Dubai, and dont really see what else the United Arab Emirates have to offer. If it had not been for me being offered a free tour with the Worlds longest zipline I probably also would have not have ventured out on the two hour drive to the city in the North.

Ras Al Khaimah is a city on the border to Oman, which is less populated and developed than Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but still just as interesting to explore.

During my stay there I got to walk the corniche, hang out at the beach and then visit the Toro Verde Zipline in the Jebel Jais mountains.

The one hour drive from RAK city center to the zipline welcoming center was a very scenic one, with serpentine roads going though a mountain landscape looking a bit like the inside of the Grand Canyon.

On the top I was given a briefing and handed out the equipment needed for the zipline. It didnt take long before signing up to the point where I was standing in a pushup position facing my head towards the 2,8kilometer line going over the mountains.

When they let go of my feet and sent me down the line, it was very intense at the beginning, but after 5-6 seconds I had reached my top speed (which they say could be anything from 150km/h to 180km/h) and after that it was a rather peaceful and enjoyable experience. At the bottom I was actually surprised to see that I was only just halfway and still had another zipline to go, which was at an up right position, before I was done.

A Revisit to the Worlds highest building when passing through Dubai again

At the end a shuttle took us up to the top again where we delivered our equipment and could have a rest with the best view before heading down to Ras Al Khaimah again.